Jewish Historical Fiction, Historical Irish Fiction
The World Starts Anew is book 4 in Jean Graingers’ “Star & Shamrock Series”. The series, follows the lives of two young children Liesl and her younger brother Erich during and after WWII.
We learn in book one, The Star and the Shamrock, Liesl and Erich are sent to a distant cousin Elizabeth while fleeing the Kindertransport. Liesl, Eric and Elizabeth are taken to several places over Europe, finally escaping Berlin in 1939 and residing in the small town of Ballycreggan, Ireland. Ballycreggan is where the farm is located, headed by Rabbi David Frank and becomes home to children and youth from the kindertransport.
The World Starts Anew, picks up in 1955 with the story of Erich Bannon. Erich is in his early 20’s and is fighting the struggle of where does he fit in. His friends who grew up on the farm are moving out to the Promised Land, Europe and some are in America. Erich has the inner conflict of feeling as though Ballycreggan is his home. His family is there, the adults who have become family to him, and his sister Liesl and her new husband Jamie live there too. How can Erich leave them, this is home, but how can he also be his own man?
Erich finds himself keen on an Irish Catholic girl: Roisin. While Erich is away visiting Bud in America, Roisin dissapears. When Erich learns of his loves’ disappearance, Erich returns to Ballycreggan and vows to find Roisin, no matter the cost.
This story also explores how unwed mothers are treated and exploited by the Catholic Church, how criminal allegiances begin, treatment of women in criminal families, the new beginnings of marriages and first time parents, transitioning from child – adult relationships into adult friendships as the younger person ages and finally the profound respect one has for their faith and their rabbi, pastor or priest.
As usual, Jean is keenly aware of the societal issues she brings into her novels and is mindful to approach them with sensitivity. I am a huge fan of Jean Grainger’s writing. I am a huge fan of some of her characters. In the Star & the Shamrock series, we have seen two unique aspects in response to a dire situation. The first being the fictional town of Ballycreggan, Ireland. Where over the course of the series, we see the Jewish community mostly accepted by the town natives, and how through the years the town pulled up their boot straps and supported each other regardless of their faith. It did not matter if you were red haired, blonde haired, brown eyed, green eyed, Jewish, Protestant or Catholic; you are of Ballycreggan and this is what mattered. Would not the world be a much better place if we as humans could all have this view point, regardless of where we live in the world, what we look like, where we originate from and what our beliefs are? Humanity was meant to live in community. The Star & the Shamrock series is a beautiful testimony to this belief.
Secondly, we saw the beautiful friendship develop between the men of faith in this community, the Jewish rabbi, the protestant reverend and the Catholic priest. This was a beautiful friendship to witness over the series. I will end this review with the words from Rabbi David Frank, as spoken by Erich:
“‘Remember how the rabbi explained that a leaf grows from the tree and then falls into the soil and nourishes it, and more plants and trees spring up? That’s how life is. Those who live and are kind and righteous, they nurture the lives of others. He said that we nourish the future through the influence we have on those that come after us.”.
The World Starts Anew is available exclusively on Amazon. Paperback is available now. Pre-orders for Kindle (e-book) version are available now. The e-book will be available December 1, 2020.